Nurturing creativity with art, animals, and science fiction

Month: August 2022

It is not enough to be busy . . . The question is: what are we busy about? – Henry David Thoreau

Using My Time Well

By Jan S. Gephardt

Am I using my time well? It’s been my most persistent self-question this summer. I “wear a lot of hats” these days, which means I’m busier all the time. I’m quite possibly doing more things and being more productive than at any other point in my life.

But am I using my time well?

I’m the Chief Cat-Herder and Manager of Weirdness for Weird Sisters Publishing, which means I’m not only an author, I’m also involved in editorial oversight, I’m the Art Director, and I’m also the Director of Marketing. That’s a fair number of “hats.” As more projects come together, it’s on me to package and market them. As well as (in many cases) to create them in the first place.

Thus, if I’m using my time efficiently to accomplish a defined set of goals, I can hope I’m using my time well.

Weird Sisters Publishing: We have tales to tell. This picture shows covers for The XK9 Series, Deep Ellum Stories, and The Windhover Tetralogy.
We have a growing list of tales to tell. (See credits below).

Am I Busy with the Right Things?

I’m busy for sure. But am I busy with the right things? We never get it “all the way right,” I think. I remember sometime back in the 1980s or ‘90s sometime the business concept of “kaizen” or “continuous” improvement” was the buzzword of the moment in American business. I guess it had jumped the Pacific at some point not long after WWII, but somehow it took a while to be the Next Big Thing. We didn’t hear so much about it here on the Plains after the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997.

But the underlying concept is the basically-sound principle that you try something and learn from it. Did it work? Okay, do it again. Did it flop bigtime? Why was it such a failure? Where was the flaw in our thinking? Did it semi-flop, and there are things we can salvage? “Learning by doing” is what teachers and parents would call it, and it works in all kinds of concepts.

That does mean I have to continually interrogate my practices. Am I busy with the right things? Am I using my time well?

It is not enough to be busy . . . The question is: what are we busy about? – Henry David Thoreau
That really is the question, H.D.! (Rescue Time).

What you Need to Do Depends on Where you want to Go

The Big Question all self-employed people must answer each day is: how shall I structure my time? How do I figure out what’s the best thing to be “busy about”?

My son and I have been freelancers for years, so we’ve been refining the way we use time for a while. On the other hand, my Beloved just recently retired. People and events have been filling his time ever since, and I have a sense that he’s been feeling “drowned in stuff to do.”

Ty and I have tried to offer suggestions, and I think he’s beginning to get the hang of this self-time-management thing. But his struggles have given me a new chance to re-evaluate my own time-use habits and practices.

“Stop setting goals. Goals are pure fantasy unless you have a specific plan to achieve them.” — Stephen R. Covey
Confusing, after what I just wrote? Yes. But it’s the latter half of that quote we truly need to heed. (Quotefancy).

Establishing Goals

When I ask, “Am I using my time well?” what I’m really asking is whether the things I’m doing are helping me achieve my goals. As my Beloved has begun to learn, to achieve them, first you must envision them. After that, it’s easier to set priorities to reach them.

A good, achievable goal is both a vision and a commitment to act. “I want to be rich and famous” is just a pie-in-the-sky dream without a plan full of specific steps and a willingness to work one’s butt off. Also: fair warning from people who’ve been there. Being both rich and famous is a hazardous quest that may or may not be worth the prize at the end.

Am I using my time well? I believe that yes, you really can be “too rich and too thin.” You also can be too famous – certainly, it’s possible to be too famous to keep (or even legally expect to keep) your personal privacy. So, ditch the clichés. They’re not helpful. Each of us must decide for ourselves – specifically – what “success” looks like for us.

“Define success on your own terms, achieve it by your own rules, and build a life you’re proud to live.” — Anne Sweeney
Sounds simple, but it’s actually a call for soul-searching. And being specific. (Quotefancy).

Charting a Course Based on Goals isn’t Straightforward.

Setting priorities helps answer the question of “am I using my time well?” However, they’re not the whole answer. I still have to get from “here’s my vision of what I want to accomplish,” to “I’ll get there by doing these specific things.” And now I’d like to add one more, very important note. What you want, and how you think you’ll get there, will change.

My sister wrote a great blog post on how she found that out the “long and interesting way” in the course of her career. I won’t call it “the hard way.” That puts a needlessly negative spin on the journey of discovery that is everyone’s life. It can be hard. But it can also be joyous and rewarding (pro tip: how you look at it determines what it will be for you).

So, like everyone, I must define my goals. Use them to refine and hone my priorities. Then prepare to be flexible. G.’s vision of “what she wanted to be when she grew up” evolved over time, and so will anyone’s. The more we explore and learn, the more we’ll be able to judge whether we’re still on a good course for our personal lives.

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” — Stephen R. Covey
In other words, make sure you visualize where you want to go before you try to figure out what to do today! (Quotefancy).

It Still Gets Messy

Even then, it can get messy. It’s possible to pull up short at any moment in the journey and realize, “Oh, rats! I made a mistake! That’s not using my time well at all!” A process I envisioned as easy or productive turns into a logistical nightmare. Or maybe it takes, like, ten times longer than I expected – and unfortunately the learning curve wasn’t the only reason it took that long!

No one is immune – certainly not me! Anyone who thinks they have all the answers is fooling themselves. I try to remind myself: Kaizen, Jan, and hold fast to the reminder that no, “kaizen” is not the giant kaiju rising up out of the Pacific to destroy my schedule and spoil all my dreams.

This is a montage of two cartoons. In the first a knight is confronted by a fire-breathing dragon, and thinks, “DARN! There goes my To-Do list for today!” In the second cartoon, the first panel is marked “Your ‘Plans’.” In it, a person rides their bicycle up a straight, slight incline to a checkered flag. The second panel is marked, “The Universe’s Plans for you.” In it, our bicyclist confronts: 1. a much steeper incline. 2. a pit full of rocks. 3. a rope bridge over another pit. 4. a choice between a lake full of water with a boat and a steep climb to get out or a zipline. 5. More hills. 6. A steep canyon with a ladder to climb up the other side, but it’s raining on it. 7. Another steep incline – but there’s a sun shining from above. The checkered flag is not visible.
Time for a few more “learning takes”! (See credits below).

Instead of despair, what’s needed is what my son’s kindergarten teacher called a “learning take.” Oh, yes, and patience. Lots of patience. Maybe also some humility. We must be willing to admit we called it wrong and try again. Take a run at problems from another direction, and it might just unlock new insights.

And really, isn’t gaining a new understanding that unlocks a better way of doing something valuable in its own right? Yes, learning from a failed plan or a bad idea is frustrating. But gaining new insights and improving how I do things most definitely qualifies as using my time well!


Once again, Quotefancy made it much easier to develop this post than it might otherwise have been. Many thanks to them for the two illustrated quotes from Stephen R. Covey, as well as the one from Anne Sweeney (see individual URLs in the cutlines). The Henry David Thoreau quote came courtesy of Rescue Time. Many thanks to both!

The Weird Sisters Publishing array of “Tales to tell” incorporates cover artwork © 2019-2022 by Jody A. Lee, Lucy A. Synk, and Chaz Kemp. That header image and the cartoon montage at the end of this post were designed and built by Jan S. Gephardt.

We owe particular thanks to two different sources for the cartoon montage. First, many thanks to cartoonist and “Psychotactics Blog” author, the talented Sean D’Souza. He created the “To-Do List”-busting dragon cartoon (read the blog post, while you’re at it!). Second, we really appreciate Doghouse Diaries, the original source of the much-reposted-but-seldom acknowledged cartoon about how one’s plans too often stack up against “The Universe’s Plans for You.” Thanks, Will, Ray, and Raf! We at Weird Sisters and Artdog Adventures appreciate you!

“The Moon is the first milestone on the road to the stars.” — Arthur C. Clarke

To The Moon

By Jan S. Gephardt

As I write this, the Artemis 1 Mission is still “go for launch” next Monday, Aug. 29, 2022. A lot of us are excited about the prospect of a new Moon program. But other voices, from both left and right, question whether we should go back to the Moon at all. Indeed, from the very beginning there have been questions about the priority we should give to our reach into Space.

We haven’t been to the Moon since the last Apollo mission in 1972. A full 50 years. Half a century. Dating myself, here, for the sake of scale: that was the year I graduated from high school. I’m retirement-age now, so that’s a working lifetime ago.

Why not? We’ve launched other missions – why not go back to the Moon till now? In my research, I’ve discovered several reasons.

I think we're going to the moon because it's in the nature of the human being to face challenges. It's by the nature of his deep inner soul... we're required to do these things just as salmon swim upstream. – Neil Armstrong
That was then. Why haven’t we gone back for all these years? (Famous Quotes 123).


Consider the political landscape in the United States between 1972 and 2022. Control of the House, Senate, and White House has seesawed back and forth between Republicans and Democrats rather frequently, after two long periods of Democratic Party rule during the Roosevelt-Truman years and again during 1960s and the Kennedy-Johnson administrations.

This meant that each administration and Congressional majority got to make up their own rules. They felt free to set, re-set, abandon or continue the policies of their predecessors. As a result, there were never enduring, universally-established ideas about where, how, and even if, we might boldly go anywhere. Including to the Moon.

The last Apollo missions happened during the Nixon Administration, but while Nixon wasn’t exactly against space expansion, he was much more bullish on the idea of making space more affordable and accessible. The Space Shuttle project had its origins in the Nixon White House.

“Before another century is done it will be hard for people to imagine a time when humanity was confined to one world, and it will seem to them incredible that there was ever anybody who doubted the value of space and wanted to turn his or her back on the Universe.” — Isaac Asimov
Isaac would undoubtedly have been disappointed to know it would take us 50 years to refocus on the Moon. (Quotefancy).

Focus, Refocus, and Lack of Focus

Space programs take a long time to develop, and they require a lot of money. People in power haven’t always seen it as a high spending priority, especially in times of economic difficulty. Many early programs ran into cost overruns of the sort that saw Skylab B mothballed in the mid-70s, about the same time the Soviets canceled the Almaz (space platform) project, possibly for similar issues.

In the latter 1970s the Space Shuttle program remained in the development stages, but continued to move forward. The Ford and Carter administrations were preoccupied by inflation, an energy crisis, foreign threats, and social upheaval. Ford greenlit the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Carter emphasized the need to self-defense in space, but didn’t take the idea very far. You’ll notice that none of these ideas got us anywhere closer to the Moon.

“All civilizations become either spacefaring or extinct.” — Carl Sagan
Sagan’s sample-size did nothing to lend power to his words at the time. He died in 1996, at a time when NASA’s Space Shuttle fleet had begun to show its age and limitations, but new space initiatives weren’t in fashion. (Quotefancy).

Space-Based Defense

Ronald Reagan took that space-based defense idea and majored on it. He proposed a massive Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). But vocal observers complained it was unrealistic for the technology of the period. They nicknamed it “Star Wars” and painted it as over-priced science-fictional wish-fulfillment. At the time, they weren’t entirely wrong, although the idea of space-based defense both predated, and ultimately outlived Reagan’s idea.

George H.W. Bush was a space-development booster. On the 20th anniversary of the our first Moon landing, he announced the Space Exploration Initiative (SEI), which included a space station called Freedom – but no plan to return to the Moon anytime soon. Congress couldn’t get past the idea of its $500 billion price tag, however. Not even if the spending was spread across 20-30 years.

Bill Clinton’s administration never brought “Freedom” to fruition, but did start construction on the International Space Station. He focused more interest on exploring the universe, and kept the door open on space-based weapons. Especially in his second term, however, divisions in the United States grew more extreme. The Republican-led Congress was unwilling to work with him on initiatives of most any sort.

“It is difficult to understand the universe if you only study one planet.” — Miyamoto Musashi
The Clinton Administration created the National Science and Technology Council. They backed exploration and the ISS, but had little interest in a return to the Moon. (Quotefancy).

Advance and Retreat

George W. Bush reshaped NASA policy yet again, refocusing on space exploration (Vision for Space Exploration, 2004). He reintroduced plans to return to the Moon (by 2020), retire the Space Shuttle program, and start preparations to send humans to Mars. But Bush became much more heavily focused on waging two wars that did not produce predicted easy victories, and the onset of the Great Recession at the end of his term.

His successor Barack Obama had little time or energy for space, and certainly not for the Moon. Not in the depths of the Great Recession. His political capital went for economic fixes and the ACA. Faced in his second term with an oppositional, Republican-led Congress, few initiatives prospered. But he did use his executive power – to kill most of “W’s” space initiatives, including a trip to the Moon.

Instead, he opened the door for more private investment in space and a focus on commercially-exploitable asteroids and Mars. SpaceX, Blue Origin, and other initiatives began their dramatic rise.

“In the coming era of manned space exploration by the private sector, market forces will spur development and yield new, low-cost space technologies. If the history of private aviation is any guide, private development efforts will be safer, too.” — Burt Rutan
The Clinton Administration created the National Science and Technology Council. They backed exploration and the ISS, but had little interest in a return to the Moon. (Quotefancy).

Taking the High Ground

I’ll refer you to my sister’s excellent essay on the Space Force for a look at the most recent iterations on the United States’ focus on space-based defenses. The Trump Administration further encouraged private space enterprise. They resurrected the National Space Council (continued under Biden and currently chaired by Vice President Kamala Harris). And they shifted the country’s efforts from the Obama-era focus on Mars back to the Moon.

The Biden Administration embraced and continued the internationally-supported Artemis project, which will (we hope) launch Artemis 1 on Monday. The long-delayed return to the Moon has finally begun in earnest.

Riding atop the Space Launch System (survivor of the “W” Bush-era Constellation project), the Orion spacecraft won’t carry humans this time (“Captain Moonikin Campos,” “Helga,” and “Zohar,” all varied types of sensor-equipped “manikins,” will ride in their place, along with NASA mascot Snoopy and ESA mascot Shaun the Sheep). Nor will it land on the Moon. but it will deploy CubeSats and orbit the Moon.

“If God wanted man to become a spacefaring species, he would have given man a moon.”
— Krafft Arnold Ehricke
Looks as if the Artemis Project might actually get us there after all. (Quotefancy).

Artemis 1, 2, 3, and Beyond

Monday’s launch of Artemis 1 is an essential test of equipment and systems. If all goes well, in mid-October NASA will retrieve it from the Pacific Ocean. At that point, teams of scientists will start feverishly poring over its data. They must apply everything they can learn from Artemis 1, to ensure the safety of the human crew on Artemis 2.

Artemis 2 is currently planned for a May 2024 launch date. It, too, will orbit the Moon, but won’t land. The crew has a whole laundry list of systems checks to perform, both in Earth orbit and during the lunar flyby. The Artemis 2 crew hasn’t yet been named, but they’ll all be North Americans: three from the USA, and one from Canada. Whoever they turn out to be, the latter will be the first Canadian ever to travel beyond low Earth orbit.

We’ll get to Artemis 3 sometime in 2025 . . . we hope. There have been numerous delays already. This first crewed Moon landing of the Artemis Project (first humans on the lunar surface since 1972) also will see the first use of the SpaceX-built Starship HLS. If all goes well, this will be a true return to the Moon.

Artemis 1 through 3 are the beginning, not an end-point. Artemis 4 starts building another international effort:  a space station called Lunar Gateway, designed to orbit the Moon. And you can guess from the name where things are headed from there. It all starts with a return to the Moon.

“The Moon is the first milestone on the road to the stars.” — Arthur C. Clarke
Sir Arthur might be right, after all. (Quotefancy).


For once, this section doesn’t have much to add. All of the quotes are attributed in the captions. Nearly all came from the Quotefancy page “Space Quotes,” with one ringer from Famous Quotes 123. All quote images were selected by this post’s author.

A Clean Home Never Goes Out of Style

A Spotlessly Beautiful Home

By G. S. Norwood

The other day I happened across a list of suggestions from Good Housekeeping magazine on how to maintain a spotlessly beautiful home. The list outlines all the things I should clean every day, once a week, once a month, or a few times a year, so the house stays lovely, with only a little effort on my part. It read like one of those hopelessly outdated articles from the 1950s on how to make your husband happy, or how teachers should manage their classrooms. Clearly the list’s author was delusional.

Still, I thought I’d put the list to the test, to see how it would work into my daily routine. Just for fun, I added in some of the other helpful suggestions experts in the fields of health, nutrition, beauty, and fitness offer up to make every day my Best Day Ever. Spoiler alert: it’s not going to be pretty.

Just A Simple Morning Routine

A Clean Home Never Goes Out of Style
Somehow, even Spotlessly Beautiful can look dated, however. (Imgflip).

This is how the suggestions shaped up. The time estimates are my own.

6:00 am Wake up—instantly. Bound out of bed with lots of energy. (Which I don’t do.) Make the bed because, c’mon, it’s right there and you’re not getting back in. 10 minutes.

6:10 am Pee/Dress for dog walk: The experts don’t actually include this in the things I must do but, trust me, I must do this. 5 minutes.

6:15 am Take dogs for 1 mile walk. Do this twice, so all four dogs get a walk. 45 minutes.

7:00 am Sweep kitchen floor. Ten minutes. Okay, eight minutes because it’s a small kitchen, but I also have to feed the cats.

I Really Wanna Leave My Bed and Start the Day – Said No One Ever
Sure, she wakes up instantly. Who doesn’t? (LiveAbout).

Don’t Forget Your Health . . .

7:10 am Cook a healthy breakfast—oatmeal and such. Allow 20 minutes, because it’s steel cut oatmeal, plus we have to have fruit, which may mean washing each grape individually if we’re to get off all pesticide residue as the food purity experts recommend.

7:30 am Eat said healthy breakfast while reading the paper—20 minutes, particularly if you get your morning caffeine hot, since it has to cool down to drinking temp. (NOTE: You won’t finish the paper in this time, let alone work the puzzles.)

7:50 am Wipe down the electric kettle, put dishes in dishwasher, wipe down kitchen counters, sanitize kitchen sink. 10 minutes

Two memes give a tiny glimpse of the morning routine with kids: (1) Night Mom: “Tomorrow I am gonna wake up before all the kids & clean house & go for a run & cook healthy food & spend time alone drinking coffee!” Morning Mom: “Hahahaha Nope.” (2) “I just dry shampoo’d & febreeze’d my kids on the way out the door, so no, I’m not really interested in your family’s morning chore chart, Debbie.”
The author doesn’t have kids, but they make mornings even more of a riot. Spotlessly Beautiful need not apply. (See credits below).

. . . Or Beauty!

8:00 am Shower (because dog-walking is sweaty business) 20 minutes, including hair wash and shaving. We’ll credit the health and beauty experts for this next part.

8:20 am Blow dry/style your hair—10 minutes

8:30 am Wash face/Put on makeup—15 minutes

8:45 am Wipe down bathroom surfaces, squeegee shower, sanitize bathroom sink—15 minutes

9:00 am Dress—15 minutes

A woman frowns out through a small patch of scraped-away frost on her windshield. Overlay type reads, “Defrosting? Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That!”
Even Texans have to deal with this sometimes. The more northern of us? Heck, yeah! (Know Your Meme).


And then it’s off to work I go. I live in an area that is home to about eight million people. That’s roughly the total population of Missouri and Kansas. Some days I think they all want to drive down US Highway 75, the same time I do.

9: 15 am Morning commute—45 minutes

10:00-6:00 Work 8 hours

6:00-7:00 pm Evening commute—60 minutes (assuming there are no backups)

While my drive into work happens just slightly after the morning rush hour, my drive home hits the rush right in the fat part. I am continually astonished by the number of people who crash into each other during this sacred hour. And the number of people who slow down to look at the roadside carnage. They might call it rush hour, but trust me, nobody is rushing anywhere. Sometimes I bail, just to run a few errands and—okay, mostly I shop for books.

7:00 pm Stop for groceries/drug store stuff—20 minutes

The photo shows an absolutely jam-packed (photoshopped for emphasis, we hope!) freeway full of cars, trucks, buses, and motorcycles, in which traffic lanes appear to be more of a guideline than a rule, and nobody is getting anywhere soon. The caption reads, “Why do they call it ‘Rush Hour’ … when nothing moves?” – Robin Williams.
Good question, Robin. (MEME).

Home Again, Home Again

When I hit the door at home, a lot of things happen at once.

7:20 pm Potty break/change into home clothes—15 minutes

7:35 pm Take dogs out for a second walk—45 minutes

8:10 pm Dinner prep—25 minutes

8:35 pm Feed animals—15 minutes

8:40 pm Throw in load of laundry—5 minutes

8:50 pm Take load out of dryer/fold—10 minutes

8:55 pm Put laundry away—5 minutes

Two memes by the incomparable Anne Taintor: (1) in a classic 1950s-era illustration a well-dressed woman has wiped her cloth down a wall and left a visibly-cleaner, lighter streak. The caption reads, “See? Cleaning one thing just makes everything else look dirtier.” (2) A well-dressed woman in heels and an apron that matches her tasteful gray dress stands by an open oven. It reveals two racks full of complicated-to-cook foods. The caption says, “Honey? Can you get the food out of the oven so I can stick my head into it?”
When living Spotlessly Beautiful lives of quiet desperation, dark humor often works best. (See credits below).

9:00 pm Serve/eat dinner—30 minutes This is the first time I’ve sat down (not counting the potty break) since I got home from work.

9:30 pm Wipe down kitchen surfaces, put dishes in dishwasher—10 minutes

9:40 pm Clean the cat box—5 minutes (Again, not on the expert list, but trust me.)

9:45 pm Take dogs out again—45 minutes

10:30 pm Pay bills—30 minutes

11:00 pm Bedtime prep—30 minutes

11:30 pm Fall asleep instantly, suffer no insomnia, and sleep 8 restful, peaceful hours.

7:30 am Awaken in a panic after that 8-hour sleep, knowing I’m already 1 hour and 30 minutes behind schedule

Two memes: (1) in classic “SomEEcards” style, a woman frowns at the notebook on which she’s writing. The caption reads, “My to-do list from today seems to consist of everything from my to-do list yesterday.” (2) A woman clutches the lapels of the blond man standing in front of her and screams, “THERE’S NO TIME THERE’S NEVER ANY TIME!!!!!”
We’ve done both of those things. How about you? (See credits below).

A Spotlessly Beautiful Home?

I couldn’t help but notice that the schedule laid out by Good Housekeeping’s cleaning expert made no allowances for drinking those eight glasses of water a day recommended by the health experts, or the potty stops which come with all that fluid intake.

Nor was that the only obvious flaw in this neat outline for keeping my home spotlessly beautiful. The schedule I outlined above is for a single woman, living alone. In making it, I gave no consideration to married women, who might have multiple children on different day care/band/sports/school/after school schedules. And forget about taking time to have sex with that brilliant and talented life partner some of you might be fortunate enough to have around the house. No time for so much as a 2-minute quickie there.

Two memes: (1) in another Anne Taintor classic, a young woman in a baking apron stops to look up and put a finger to her lips. She’s holding the iconic 1935 edition of “My Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook.” She stands behind an island counter filled with a vintage mixer, bowls, pans, and baking ingredients. The caption reads, “Time to myself? HUSH! THAT’s the DEVIL’s Talk!” (2) A woman puts her hand to her head, as a tear streaks down her face. The caption reads, “8 glasses of water per day? Impossible. But I can drink 8 glasses of wine at one meal.”
The Spotlessly Beautiful conundrums continue to confound. (See credits below).

Life Happens

Nor do you get a break on the weekend. That’s when you’re supposed to be mopping your kitchen and bathroom floors, scrubbing all bathroom surfaces, and cleaning the mirrors. Because you really, really want to see the haggard wreck you quickly become on this schedule. Don’t forget to dust your furniture, vacuum your floors and furniture, change the bed, clean out the fridge, wipe down all your kitchen appliances, clean the microwave and sanitize the sponges (whatever the hell that is).

Visiting with friends? Not gonna happen.

Plus, when are you going to go to the farmer’s market to buy the fresh, delicious, locally grown produce? Don’t you want to feed your family the healthy, home-cooked meals the nutritionists recommend?

Take out the trash? Work in the yard? Garden? Obedience-train your dogs? Pursue any kind of hobby? Attend a play or concert? Or even a football game? Call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline? Because your life has become a meaningless horror show as you sacrifice all your time and energy on the altar of having the spotlessly beautiful home.

Two memes: (1) another classic from Anne Taintor. Two women, dressed as if for church, stand in front of an open refrigerator. One holds a full meat drawer open for the other. The caption reads, “I did all the laundry and cleaned the house, and then I felt like killing someone.” (2) An young woman dressed in a housekeeping apron languishes in an armchair. One hand clutches her head, while another hangs listlessly over the chair-arm, still holding a cleaning rag. The room around her is a disordered tangle of upended ladders, brooms, mops, and assorted clutter. The caption reads, “My housekeeping style is best described as ‘There appears to have been a struggle.”
It can be a daily struggle. (See credits below).

Let’s Get Real

Clearly the problem here is not that you and I don’t adopt these simple methods to mix light housekeeping into our normal daily routines. The problem is unrealistic expectations. I’m no expert, but I’m willing to bet the list was originally written sometime in the 1950s by a man with a degree in engineering. He probably specialized in workplace efficiency. If he had children, I expect he greeted them each evening as he sipped his after-work cocktail, then waved them off to bed. Back in those days, guys like that often felt it was their duty to help women become more organized when it came to those all-important household chores.

Oddly, women were not grateful.

The truth is, to this day, women still shoulder the responsibility for twice as many household chores as men do. Even in homes where the male partners consider themselves to be feminists. This doesn’t begin to account for the tremendous amount of mental labor” women undertake to keep the family schedules straight and address the social and emotional needs of all family members. And then there’s the guilt women feel when they think that somehow they don’t measure up.

Four memes by Anne Taintor: (1) A woman serves bacon and eggs onto a plate. She looks over her shoulder at the viewer with a smile. The caption reads, “Personally, I wouldn’t mind being replaced by a robot.” (2) A beautifully-dressed young woman in vintage clothing strikes a sophisticated pose and offers a pensive, unsmiling face to the viewer. The caption reads, “I’m not laughing on the inside, either.” (3) A wholesome-looking young woman in an apron stands by a stove. She holds a wooden spoon in one hand and touches a control on the cooktop with the other. The caption says, “Why, I’d be delighted to put my needs last again.” (4) A young woman dressed for entertaining holds up a bottle of wine. The caption says, “This one pairs well with screaming at people in your head.”
An Anne Taintor quartet offers more masterpieces of sarcasm. (Bored Panda).

Call It What It Is

Which is why I call bullshit on lists like the one from Good Housekeeping. I not only suspect it was originally formulated by a man, I’ll bet he doesn’t know how to sanitize sponges either.

So the next time you are seized by the urge to make yours a spotlessly beautiful home, I suggest you pour yourself a cold glass of something besides water. Stretch out on your freshly vacuumed couch. Read one of those books you picked up on the way home from work. Something that will take you far away from the stress of maintaining a perfect house. I have some ideas:

Weird Sisters Publishing: We have tales to tell. The XK9 Series. Deep Ellum Stories. The Windhover Tetralogy. All artwork © 2019-2022 by Jody A. Lee, Lucy A. Synk, and most of all Chaz Kemp. Wow. When we spread them all out, they really do look like a LOT of tales to tell!
Weird Sisters Publishing has an expanding catalog. (Weird Sisters Publishing).


Wow, do we have a lot of people to thank for the pictures in this Spotlessly Beautiful post! Primary among them is the talented and subversive Anne Taintor, whose wicked vintage-illustrated memes are sharp enough to draw blood. All montages are the work of Jan S. Gephardt, who also chose the pictures and assembled them.

“A Clean Home” came from Imgflip, as did the “8 glasses of water” meme below, and it appears to have been the original source of “There appears to have been a struggle,” although we found it on “Life After the Morning Flush.”

“I Really Wanna Leave my Bed” came courtesy of LiveAbout. The two “Morning Kids” images came from Pinterest: “Night/Morning Mom” is from Debbie Beidelman’s pinboard, while “Just dry shampoo’d & febreeze’d my kids” is from the Digital Mom Blog via Meadoria’s pinboard.

Many thanks to Know Your Meme, for “Defrosting,” and to MEME for the Robin Williams quote. The SomEEcards “To-Do List” image comes via Janileth Slattery’s Pinterest pinboard, while the “Never enough time” meme came to us via the “724 South House” Blog.

Yet More Anne Taintor, plus Tales to Tell

The Anne Taintor’s “Cleaning One Thing” image came from Bored Panda, in the same article that brought us the collection of four others near the end. Many thanks to QuotesGram for the “Take the food out of the oven” meme, as well as “Time to myself?” below.

Might note that the young lady in “Time to myself?” clutches a copy of the 1935 My Better Homes and Gardens cookbook featured in G.’s earlier blog post, “Cooking? O Joy!” Both of these articles feature more sarcasm of this type if you’re enjoying it. The Bored Panda piece focuses specifically on the work of Anne Taintor. “Did all the laundry and cleaned the house” (another by Anne Taintor) came via Mrs. Domestic Goddess in Progress’s blog via their Pinterest pinboard. Our deepest gratitude to all!

And we hope you really will take a look at our “Tales to Tell,” via the Weird Sisters Publishing’s “Our Books” page. Current releases (as of this post) include Jan S. Gephardt’s XK9 Series and G. S. Norwood’s Deep Ellum Stories. But the list is steadily expanding. We plan to add the “Windhover” Tetralogy (by “third Weird Sister,” the late Warren C. Norwood) this winter.

Mt. Stromboli erupts spectacularly at night.

Angry Women

By Jan S. Gephardt

“Oh, now, honey, let’s not get hysterical.” If this phrase or its moral equivalent has never been directed at you, you probably aren’t female. Fact is, there are few things more socially unacceptable than angry women.

Even the word “hysterical” has women at its root. As far as I can tell, throughout the ages there have been angry women. And for just as long, there have been men and other women who were terrified and/or outraged by them. Take your pick: terror and outrage are often two sides of the same coin. But it  all adds up to this: society does everything it can to make angry women shut up. Even when they have every reason to be angry.

Two quotes here: “There is not a woman alive who does not understand that women’s anger is openly reviled.” by Soraya Chemaly, and "It's a very difficult thing for people to accept, seeing women act out anger on the screen. We're more accustomed to seeing men expressing rage and women crying." by Rebecca De Mornay.
Society discounts and looks away from angry women. (See credits below).

The Molten Core

If “Oh, now, honey, let’s not get hysterical” didn’t punch a few buttons and raise your blood pressure a bit, (1) you’re probably male and (2) but wait! There’s more. Millennia of patriarchy have piled on enough indignities, disrespect, and exploitation to fire up the molten core that seethes within most women. Consider the following to be a very small sampling.

Two more quotes: "Most women have no characters at all." - Alexander Pope. And "When a woman gets angry, she cannot speak reasonably." - anonymous (or possibly in hiding?)
Here are two examples of the sort of disrespect women deal with. (See credits below).

And let’s not forget the widespread illusion that there is no way for a man to understand “what a woman wants.” If angry women puzzle and confuse you, then you’re part of the problem.

Three quotes here: "Women are meant to be loved, not to be understood." - Oscar Wilde. "If a woman is upset, hold her and tell her how beautiful she is. If she starts to growl, retreat to a safe distance and throw chocolate at her." - Anonymous (and he'd be wise to remain that way). And, “Behind every angry Woman is a man who has Absolutely no idea what he did wrong.” – Again, by Anonymous (he spouts off a lot).
It’s an ancient trope that men don’t know what women want. Have they ever considered respect? Or listening? (See credits below).

For women, the whole business of navigating life has, for centuries, been one long steeplechase of often-unavoidable hazards. One scarcely has to look, before examples leap to mind (if you’ve been paying attention).

I’ll pull two from art history. Consider the treatment of Artemesia Gentileschi at her rape trial – an experience all too much like the experiences of contemporary women. Or the fact that the famous artist Rosa Bonheur had to get special permission from the police to be allowed to wear a smock and trousers when she went to a slaughterhouse to study animal anatomy (in order to do her life’s work).

Why talk about Angry Women?

I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about women’s anger and the curious way it’s been ignored, overlooked, and otherwise disregarded by pundits and political analysts. Particularly, in the wake of the Dobbs decision that reversed Roe v. Wade.

It wasn’t only angry women who rose up on their hind legs last week to deliver a resounding “NO” to the “Value Them Both” referendum in Kansas. Men definitely participated in that result. But a lot of the momentum came from a sustained “ground game” by volunteers all over Kansas. Volunteers who included a lot of young, angry women. And the voters who responded in unprecedented numbers also included a lot of young, angry women.

Now, there are a lot of Libertarians-at-heart (of all genders) in Kansas. Their reaction to a threat of egregious government overreach also forms an important part of the “No to Value Them Both” story. And on the face of it,  it’s downright un-American to nakedly foist one narrow set of religious views on the general public. Especially while removing important rights to life and liberty in the process.

Here are three more quotes, of a higher caliber than the last batch: “No person is your friend (or kin) who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow.” - Alice Walker. “Life without liberty is like a body without spirit.” - Kahlil Gibran. And "Independence is a heady draft, and if you drink it in your youth, it can have the same effect on the brain as young wine does. It does not matter that its taste is not always appealing. It is addictive and with each drink you want more.” - Maya Angelou
Liberty with agency: wouldn’t you say it’s what everyone wants and deserves? (Country Living).

What’s wrong with this picture?

But most of the “experts” inside the Beltway and among the national media appear clueless about many aspects of this story. In underestimating rural people’s intelligence, they definitely blew it. There was a widespread fear before August 2 that the ignorant backwoods rubes would fall for the deceptive name, wording, and hype. But the underestimation is even greater when it comes to the angry women.

I used that metaphor of “the molten core that seethes within most women” earlier, for a reason. I think a lot of people are ignoring “seismic indicators” in the social realm. Volcano experts learned to predict when volcanic eruptions will happen soon. They’ve learned what to look for – the signs that indicate a given place is building up to an eruption. Pinning down exactly when it will happen is still difficult. But they can be pretty clear on it when an eruption seems imminent. They know they must monitor certain telltale indicators.

Mt. Stromboli erupts spectacularly at night.
Stromboli subtly inflates just before it explodes. (See credits below).

Angry Women Suppress their Emotions for a Long Time

By contrast, I believe a lot of political observers are consistently missing telltale indicators that we’ve been seeing in recent years. I think this is because our society consistently refuses to take women’s anger seriously. Women (and their families) have endured one provocative outrage after another in recent years. Seems to me  that inexorable drumbeat is eventually going to bring on a history-changing “eruption.”

The chances look good that a lot of so-called “experts” will be astonished when it happens. Just as they were blindsided by the referendum results in Kansas. That’s because it takes a lot of outrage and a long buildup, before angry women explode.

Two quotes here: "When a woman cries it's not usually over one thing. It's built up anger and emotions that she's been holding in for too long." – QuotesGate. And "So many women keep their anger inside and let it build until they explode and then people blow them off again." - Rosalind Wiseman.
Women are trained to hold their anger in. But that only lasts so long. And when people blow them off, that starts the cycle all over again. (See credits below).

Seismic Indicators

Let me offer a few items for consideration. Do you remember the Women’s March of 2017? It followed the election of a man who clearly had no respect at all for women.

"When you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy . . . You can do anything." - Donald J. Trump
When challenged, he doubled down. Worse, he still won the election. (The Guardian via Twitter).

About that same time came the fall of Harvey Weinstein and the massive expansion of the #Me Too Movement. In early 2018 we learned about Larry Nassar and his protracted run as the chief sexual predator in residence for USA Gymnastics. Outrage piled on outrage until it was intolerable.

Most of us also remember the 2018 Mid-Term Elections, in which the Democrats re-took the House of Representatives and a record number of female representatives were elected. Observers noted that angry women had played a part, but after all – the sitting President’s party “always” loses ground in the mid-terms, right? How much role did women really play? It was easy to dismiss or overlook the angry women.

More Fuel to the Flames of Indignation

The botched handling of the Pandemic led to the needless “extra deaths” of thousands of elders and lower-income workers (read that predominantly Black, brown, and female, although men died in droves, too). Misogyny and racism reared their heads more nakedly than we’d seen them for a while.

Mass shootings do not only concern women, of course. But as the steady drumbeat of mass shootings also mounted, women-led groups grew. I’m talking about our local Kansas City Mothers in Charge, and on the national-level Grandmothers Against Gun Violence. Another group heavily threatened by gun violence is victims of domestic violence, who are disproportionately women. And yet, a lot of people overlooked how much of an active role women played in the pushback.

This huge crowd of protesters was one of millions who turned out worldwide.
The Black Lives Matter movement started with the initiative of three Black women (Safe Journalists).

The police killings of Black people such as Philando Castile, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd sent thousands into the streets in the summer of 2020. Angry women of all races and gender expressions joined angry men to voice their outrage. In 2020 voters kicked Trump out of the White House and gave Senate control back  to the Democrats. This country had ample reasons. It wasn’t only the work of angry women. But who spearheaded the Black Lives Matter movement, for example? Women (specifically, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi).

Is Dobbs the Final Straw?

The proverbial camel could only take so much weight. Throughout history we’ve seen long-simmering resentments against injustice finally reach a tipping point. If it wasn’t possible to turn back systemic injustices and the denial of rights, there would have been no successful suffrage movement for women. No Civil Rights era could have occurred (although it seems we’re about ready for another chapter of that struggle). There would have been no end to Prohibition.

Let’s wrap up with three more quotes: "I am angry nearly every day of my life, but I have learned not to show it; and I still try to hope not to feel it, though it may take me another forty years to do it." [Character of Marmee in Little Women] - Louisa May Alcott. “Anger is not an accepted thing for women. And, you know, I do get angry. I feel it’s a very honest emotion.” – Rosamund Pike. Finally, a closing thought from Soraya Chemaly: “A society that does not respect women’s anger is one that does not respect women.”
Anger has been an ongoing challenge for women since at least the dawn of patriarchy. But it’s a real emotion we can’t help feeling. When will our society respect it? (See credits below).

Never doubt that the eruption is coming. Respect repeatedly denied demands redress. The repeal of long-established rights – and the threat to repeal more – isn’t something people (certainly not Americans) will just roll over and take. And life-destroying, unjust mandates, exacted by a small, ignorant, over-controlling and unrepresentative group (looking at you, wealthy, privileged elders without vaginas) won’t stand forever.

I can’t tell you exactly when the eruption will come. But when it does, angry women will fuel it.


As ever, we have lots of people to thank for the photos and illustrated quotes that punctuate this post. The author, Jan S. Gephardt, selected and assembled all the montages. Many thanks to Quotefancy for Soraya Chemaly’s words, and to Quote HD for those of Rebecca De Mornay, in the first montage.

For the second, we’d like to thank Inspirational Stories for the Alexander Pope quote (although we’re not sure what it might inspire beyond anger or contempt). Status Mind contributed the incendiary “When a woman gets angry” quote/image. Though perhaps we’re being hysterical to call it that, despite the grass fire in the background?

For the third montage, we thank SaveDelete for the condescending Oscar Wilde quote. Funny All Women’s Talk brought us the (not so funny) “throw chocolate” quote. And thanks to Amazon for the “Behind Every Angry Woman” design (they put it on a notebook). In light of boneheadedness such as this, are angry women a surprise?

Liberty, News, and a Volcano

All three of the “Liberty” quotes in the fourth montage come courtesy of Country Living. Quanta Magazine provided Rainer Albiez’s dramatic photo of Mt. Stromboli erupting. The next montage combines a quote about women’s frustration from MEME with a wry observation from Rosalind Wiseman courtesy of Idle Hearts.

UK publication The Guardian posted The Infamous Trump Quote on its Twitter feed (many thanks!). It inspired more angry women than he would believe. And the unattributed photo of a Black Lives Matter protest in 2020 came courtesy of Safe Journalists. Read their accompanying article for an overview of outrageous attacks on well-identified members of the press during the 2020 protests.

The final montage consists of three more quotes about angry women. The Louisa May Alcott comment comes from All Author. Picture Quotes provided an observation on anger’s honesty from Rosamund Pike. And we wrap up as we started, with an appropriate thought from Soraya Chemaly. This one comes from Stacey Rosenfeld’s Mental Health Service Facebook Page and Gatewell Therapy Center. Many thanks to all!

Neil Diamond stands with hiss back to the Fenway Park scoreboard and sings “Sweet Caroline” after the Boston Marathon Bombing.

Sweet Caroline

By G. S. Norwood

I was not hip in high school. Classical music ruled the day in my house when I was growing up, and I didn’t get into popular music until I was in the seventh grade. Even then, when my friends were extolling the virtues of Jethro Tull and Grand Funk Railroad, I preferred the gentler music of singer songwriters like Elton John, Carole King, and—nerdiest of all nerd choices—Neil Diamond, with his recent hit, Sweet Caroline.

Diamond came up through the Tin Pan Alley tradition amongst the songwriters laboring away in New York City’s Brill Building. He followed in the footsteps of such Great American Songbook tunesmiths as George and Ira Gershwin and Irving Berlin. There was a bit of Broadway and a breath of classical music mixed into the pop hits Diamond wrote for The Monkees, Cliff Richard, and Jay and the Americans. Diamond’s songs drew on American folk music and the Black gospel tradition, all of which delighted me.

The Brill Building and other historic places associated with Tin Pan Alley.
During the late 19th, and for much of the 20th Century, New York’s Tin Pan Alley was a center for popular music in the USA. L-R, West 28th St., and the Brill Building. (See Credits below).

But Diamond wasn’t a favorite around the campfire for amateur musicians who only knew a few chords on their acoustic guitars. As one such musician told me, when I requested Sweet Caroline at a party, “I can’t play that one. He uses some really weird chord progressions. Neil Diamond is hard!”

So how did Sweet Caroline, a song that’s too hard for easy playing, become a beloved fan favorite and an international anthem of hope?

Sweet Caroline

The way Diamond tells it, Sweet Caroline took root when he saw a photo of the young Caroline Kennedy, with her pony, Macaroni. He thought the name “Caroline” had a musical ring to it and jotted it down for future reference. Some years later, working on a love song for his wife, Marcia, he ran into a couple of problems: nothing interesting rhymed with the name “Marcia,” and the melody really needed a three-syllable name for the lyrics to work.

Sitting in a hotel room in Memphis, Tennessee, Diamond tried the name “Caroline” with his melody, and it all came together. In an interview with the New York Times he recalled, “I always thought God came into my room that evening because once I had the title, the song came easily and chords that I never even heard of were coming out of my guitar.”

A 1960s-era photo of President John F. Kennedy with his daughter Caroline on her pony, Macaroni, and the original LP album cover for “Sweet Caroline,” which bore a photo of a very young Neil Diamond.
Neil Diamond later explained how the song came together. (See Credits below).

He recorded the song the next day and released it in May 1969. Sweet Caroline hit the Billboard charts at #4 and was certified gold in August 1969, having sold more than one million copies. It has been a staple of rock/pop oldies playlists ever since.

Love Song or Sports Anthem?

While Sweet Caroline is clearly a romantic song about a developing relationship, it has a strong association with sports teams. Where it began? Historians “can’t begin to knowin’,” but the Carolina Panthers of the National Football League claim to have been the first to play the song during their home games, beginning in 1996. In 1997 it became a regular eighth-inning feature of home games for Major League Baseball’s Boston Red Sox.

“That song may have transformative powers,” said Dr. Charles Steinberg in 2002, when he was executive vice president of public affairs for the Red Sox. “It may be able to take a melancholy crowd and lift its spirits higher.”

Team logos for the Carolina Panthers football team and the Boston Red Sox baseball team
Both the Carolina Panthers and the Boston Red Sox have played “Sweet Caroline” at games. (See Credits below).

Transformative Powers

It certainly brought the city, and the whole country, together in April 2013. Days after the shock of the Boston Marathon bombing, Diamond appeared unannounced at Fenway Park to sing the song. This might not be the best performance you’ve ever seen, but the fan reactions are beautiful.

Sales of the song jumped 600% in the week following that performance. Diamond donated his royalties to a fund that helped people who had been injured in the bombing.

Neil Diamond stands with hiss back to the Fenway Park scoreboard and sings “Sweet Caroline” after the Boston Marathon Bombing.
Diamond caught a redeye from California to sing with Boston, on April 20, 2013. (See credits below).

Hope in Bad Times

Fans have sung Sweet Caroline at football, baseball, soccer, and hockey games on the local and professional levels for decades now. The song has even been used to celebrate victories in boxing and mixed martial arts. As recently as this past week, the band of the Coldstream Guards played it to celebrate England’s Women’s Euro 2022 game against Germany.

But, during the COVID-19 pandemic, when stadiums were closed and sports fans had little to celebrate, the song took on an even deeper resonance. Locked in their houses for fear of spreading the disease, people all around the world needed a lift. Some of them spent a few of their homebound hours making their own Sweet Caroline videos. Then they sent them to Neil Diamond to let the songwriter know how much the song meant to them.

They sent so many videos, in fact, that Diamond’s team cut them together into a worldwide fan singalong that is, if you’ll pardon me, so good, so good, so good! You’ll sing along, too.

Hundreds of homebound people – many with musical talent – added to the singalong. Here’s a montage that includes many of them.
A screen-grab from the International Fan Singalong 2020 video. (Neil Diamond/YouTube).

Good Times Never Seemed So Good

Today the song is widely loved and enthusiastically sung by millions of people all around the world, more than fifty years after it was written. Diamond was inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame in 1984, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011. In 2000, the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame gave him the Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement award.

And, in 2018 the Library of Congress selected Sweet Caroline for preservation in the National Recording Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” It looks like the good times will last a good long while for Diamond’s unexpected anthem.


Many people’s work came together in the illustrations for this post. We appreciate all of them! Jan S. Gephardt selected these photos and created the montages. We want to thank Wikipedia and their contributors Beyond My Ken (Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0) and the modest soul who goes by the handle Epicgenius (Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0), for the photos of Tin Pan Alley-related buildings on West 28th Street and the Brill Building, respectively.

Our deepest gratitude goes to Photos in Berlin for the early-1960s photo of Caroline Kennedy with Dad and Pony, and Discogs for the photo of the vintage album cover from 1969. We also want to thank PNGItem for the Carolina Panthers Logo, and SportsLogos for the Boston Red Sox Logo. And we deeply appreciate the Hollywood Times for sharing the photo of Neil Diamond at Fenway Park in 2013, taken by Jim Rogash, Getty Images Sports.

Finally, many thanks to YouTube, Neil Diamond, and all the fans who contributed to that marvelous video of the global “Sweet Caroline” singalong! If you haven’t watched it yet, grab a hankie and prepare to be inspired!

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